Tuesday, 10 June 2014

Bees and 'ologies at the Cheltenham Science Festival

My first time at the Cheltenham Science Festival and first impressions, wow, it definitely “does what it says on the tin”. Science everywhere, of every sort you could think of: microbiology, digital technology, astronomy, electricity, ecology, meteorology… lots of “ologies”, but all made accessible through interactive demonstrations and amazingly enthusiastic scientists.

I accompanied Dr Helen Roy to the Festival where Helen was providing the science expertise for The Big Bumblebee Discovery citizen science project. This is the first project in the Great EDF Energy Experiment, a collaboration between the British Science Association and EDF Energy. The project was launched in January 2014 at the London Eye with the aim of encouraging school children, parents and others to investigate the natural world around them, or, in other words, Science!

The 'Bee pre-paired' game was a popular attraction at the Big Bumblebee Discovery
tent at the Cheltenham Science Festival. Photo: Val Woods
It certainly proved popular in the EDF Energy Zone marquee with many children playing the “Bee pre-paired” game to identify and match different bee colour groups. Helen was on hand to answer all the bee questions and to give an insight into a real environmental study. Helen and her colleague at CEH, Dr Michael Pocock, invited young scientists across the UK to take part in The Big Bumblebee Discovery over the summer by recording information about bumblebees visiting lavender plants. The data gathered will help to test the hypothesis that the diversity of bumblebees is affected by their immediate surroundings and the wider landscape. All the experimental resource packs (and free pencils!) flew off the table.

Schools have been signing up to take part in the experiment and two of the pupils from the Bristol school which was the first to sign up through the EDF Pod were invited to take part in the filming with Helen and the celebrity ambassador Dallas Campbell. During filming for the next podcast, Helen and Dallas encouraged everyone to send in their data and to become part of this UK citizen experiment. Once the sunshine came out the team scampered through the schedule, with the enthusiasm for science shown by Dallas and Helen apparent for all to see!

Whilst at Cheltenham, Dallas Campbell and
Helen Roy filmed a new podcast for the Big
Bumblebee Discovery.

The whole day was finished off perfectly with a visit to the BBC Science Zone to enjoy Science Heroes Top Trumps – I’ll never think of helium in the same way!

Val Woods

Additional links

The Big Bumblebee Discovery: large-scale citizen science! 11 February 2014

The Pod at EDF Energy

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